How Netflix has sold a magical YA story of friendship and destiny
The School for Good and Evil comes out this week on Netflix. Based on the 2013 novel of the same name, the movie is directed by Paul Feig, who cowrote the screenplay with David Magee.
Sofia Wylie and Anne Caruso play, respectively, Agatha and Sophie, two friends who one day are suddenly whisked away to The School for Good and Evil, a mysterious place where one half teaches students how to be heroic and good while the other half teaches its students to be villainous and evil. While there, Sophie and Agatha find their friendship tested as they are thrust into a world of fairy tales and powers prompting them to question who they were meant to be.
An impressive roster of actors has been assembled to play the instructors and others at the school, including Michelle Yeoh, Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Rob Delaney and others.
announcements and casting
The movie was announced with Feig attached as director in late May 2020. Several months later Feig revealed much of the main cast, with Washington and Theron joining in February of the next year.
Chiani met some of the cast for the first time and interviewed them about their impressions of the book and story in a first look featurette released in early June as part of Netflix’s “Geeked Week” campaign.
A brief video was shared at the end of July to announce the end of production.
Bloom, Kingsley and a host of others were added to the cast in November, 2021.
Footage from the film was included in Netflix’s 2022 feature film preview.
Fieg then revealed Blanchett had been cast as the story’s narrator in June.
the marketing campaign
“There are two sides to every story” the first poster, released in June, declares. Two figures are seen in the distance on the bridge connecting the two schools, showing that the conflict between those schools will be embodied by a couple specific characters.
The first teaser (1.9m YouTube views) came out at that time as well. It’s a very good teaser, primarily focusing on vague imagery of the school as Theron’s Lady Lesso introduces the concept of the school to students as well as the audience. Toward the end we see Sophie and Agatha as they’re plucked from the woods by a giant bird and transported toward their destiny.
Those both appeared during Netflix’s “Geeked Week” campaign, which included a featurette interview with Wylie and Caruso as well as Soman Chainani, the author of the original book. Those two stars also appeared in a trailer reaction video.
July brought a second poster. This time the schools are used as background to the four main characters, now front and center.
The first trailer (3.1m views on YouTube) came out in mid-September. As it begins Agatha and Sophie have been selected to join the school and learn it plays a role in teaching those who go on to live the lives others only read about. The two friends have very different experiences at the school, though, as Sophie sees it as a path to power and respect while Agatha isn’t convinced this is what she wants. So a confrontation is set between them.
A clip showing new students being tested for their magic potential before Sophie interrupts and begins to embrace her new status and powers was released later in September as part of Netflix’s Tudum promotional event. A couple characterposters came out at about the same time.
The dynamics of the school and how Agatha and Sophie adjust to being on opposite sides of the spectrum are on display in an extended spot/trailer released a week before the movie came out. Sophie is convinced she was sent to the wrong school before embracing the darkness despite Agatha’s attempts to “save” her, making it clear what conflict will be driving the story.
It doesn’t break any new ground or give the impression of being wholly unique, but there’s a fun vibe to the campaign that makes it seem like it will be a fun time to watch. And we certainly need a new “kids learning to harness their powers at a mysterious magical school” franchise these days.
What stands out to me as the biggest question here is whether the campaign has been strong enough or achieved a wide enough reach to challenge the two big releases hitting theaters this week: Black Adam and Ticket to Paradise.
How Universal is selling the latest in one of cinema’s biggest international franchises.
I may have mentioned this previously, but with the exception of Hobbs & Shaw I’ve never seen a single entry in the Fast & Furious franchise. That’s despite the core series reaching its ninth entry over 20 years with this week’s F9: The Fast Saga. Here’s the official synopsis of the movie, courtesy of IMDb:
Cipher (Charlize Theron) enlists the help of Jakob (John Cena), Dom’s (Vin Diesel) younger brother, to take revenge on Dom and his team.
OK, sure. If you, like me, are largely in the dark as to what is happening in the above sentence, you may not be the audience for this new movie, despite a campaign that has boiled the pitch down to “muscle bound men and women engage in increasingly over-the-top stunts with cars.”
The movie, like many others, was originally scheduled to be released in April of 2020 but has been pushed numerous times because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Not wanting to imperil the franchise’s massive international box-office, it has seemingly never even been considered for non-theatrical distribution. That international appeal is evident in how it’s already nearing $300 million in overseas ticket sales before it hits the domestic market, where it’s Fandango’s biggest pre-order title of the year so far.
It finally hits screens this weekend with a projected box-office of $60 million dollars thanks to a flashy campaign but not to the lackluster 62% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s alright because this is for the fans, not the critics.
The teaser poster of Dom with his back turned as he leans against the hood of his car was released all the way back in January, 2020. It’s not much but it doesn’t need to be as it’s simply the announcement that a new movie in the series is coming out and yes, it’s about family.
He’s lived his life a quarter mile at a time. The Road To #F9 Concert & Trailer Drop is this Friday at 12:00PM PT / 3:00PM ET. pic.twitter.com/YyXyGiCL1G
A series of character posters came out at various points in the campaign that placed each character in front of what I’m assuming is their signature car, or at least one that seems to match the color aesthetic being used. The Photoshopping here is obvious, as the photos look like they’ve been cut out like Joker assembling his scrapbook and then glued to the smoke-filled background.
Dom is at the center of the group of characters featured on the theatrical poster, the rest arrayed around him while at the bottom there are a bunch of cars and a helicopter engaged in some form of racing or chase. I’m not sure the multi-colored plumes of smoke are meant to symbolize or what purpose they serve other than to add something to what would otherwise be a collection of browns and grays. An earlier version of this poster ditched the action and just featured the primary cast leaning against their cars with the same colorful smoke in the background.
Dom and Jakob are engaged in a no-holds-barred race on the IMAX poster, dirt and sparks flying everywhere as they trade paint.
One final poster came out just a few days ago, this one released at the end of a big online promotional day that included the cast answering fan questions. The poster itself was part of the 20th anniversary celebration aspect of the campaign and had Dom standing by himself alongside his car with a collection of memorable quotes from the previous films placed above him.
Thanks for celebrating all day with us for The Fast Saga 20th Anniversary. Here’s an exclusive poster just for our fam. Drop your favorite quote in the comments. #Fast20Anniversary
A teaser trailer was shared by Diesel a couple days before the release of the first trailer. When that trailer (52.5 million views on YouTube) came out at the end of January 2020 it showed that this movie would pick up on the same themes and ideas as the series’ previous entries. It focuses on family both real – Dominic talks about how everything he does is to keep his wife and son safe – and chosen, as he reunites with his colleagues and partners in crime and adventure. This time around they once again face off against Cypher, who has enlisted a criminal who turns out to be Dom’s brother. There are fast cars and over-the-top stunts, including what seems to be Dom catching a car while standing on top of a bus.
Demand for the trailer was so high it recorded over 262 million views across YouTube, Twitter and Facebook in the first 72 hours after it was released.
The final trailer (46.5 million views on YouTube) debuted over a year later, in April 2021. Debuting first on “Today” (thanks to some NBCU corporate synergy), the focus is once again on family, whether it’s the found kind or the one you’re born into. Other than that there are of course ridiculous car and other stunts on display, including some sort of scheme involving magnets and, at the very end, a hint that the franchise will finally go into space, just as fans have been clamoring for.
Online and Social
You can find trailers, a photo gallery, story synopsis and more marketing assets on the movie’s official website. It also has information on the entire saga to date including a timeline of events. Links to the movie’s social profiles are also on the page, but that list doesn’t include the Giphy page for an unknown reason.
An Instagram AR lens was available that assigned each user to a character from the movie.
Advertising, Press and Promotions
In advance of the first trailer’s debut during the Super Bowl, a concert was held in Miami featuring Cardi B., Ludacris and other artists, with the stars of the movie on hand to give fans their first full look at what they could expect. That concert was livestreamed so audiences everywhere could experience it as well. Universal announced the event in December, building anticipation over a month out from it happening.
As the promotional concert was happening, Jimmy Fallon called Diesel from “The Tonight Show” to hear how it was going and get important updates.
When the trailer revealed Han from Tokyo Drift was returning for real, it was only natural that Kang would be interviewed about how that is happening and what it means for him and fans.
The movie was among those with commercials airing during the Super Bowl, just a few days after the first trailer was released. That Big Game spot is short on dialogue – that’s not what the audience is interested in – and long on dramatic car chases and other thrilling sequences.
Promotional partners for the movie included:
Dodge, which released a commercial featuring footage from the movie and other shots of the company’s cars narrated by Diesel that positioned those cars as the ultimate muscle performance machines.
Cameo, which let fans enter to win a personalized message from one of the cast members.
Diesel talked about the movie and more when he stopped by “Kimmel” in March of 2020. A few months later Rodriguez was interviewed about the important new perspective brought on by a female writer for the movie. While he was promoting other projects, Cena spoke about his trepidation before finally signing on to join the series.
In one of the biggest announcements that came as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020, Universal pushed the movie’s release an entire year, apparently wanting to put the maximum possible distance between that virus and the film hitting theaters. Especially important at the time was that while U.S. theaters were (at the time) still open, Chinese theaters had completely shut down, effectively cutting off a major segment of the audience.
The picture hadn’t improved enough by September for Universal to stick with that release date, pushing it out an additional three months.
In October of last year, Universal revealed there would only be two more F&F movies before the series shut down, with Lin attached to direct both of them.
Due to those delays, it was advertised again during the 2021 Super Bowl, the only movie from 2020’s lineup to make a second appearance. The new spot mixes the usual bits about the importance of family with the kind of outsized and ludicrous action the franchise is known for.
EW’s 2021 Movie Preview included more comments about the story (such as it is) and characters.
One more delay, this time from May to June, was announced in March.
Diesel narrates a spot, released in late April, that starts with him talking about the power of going to the theater before cutting to the same movie footage we’ve seen before. His voiceover positions the movie as the perfect time to “come together” in a communal viewing experience with all the involvement and engagement that entails.
That spot was parodied in a late-May episode of “Saturday Night Live,” with Beck Bennett’s Vin Diesel just kind of naming things that exist in a movie theater.
The “Total Car-Nage” video from early May mixed scenes from the finished film with a bit of behind-the-scenes footage showing how some of those scenes were shot. It’s not exactly a featurette, more of a hype reel.
Black was interviewed about coming back to the franchise and the fan-driven legacy of Tokyo Drift.
Universal shared a video of a massive publicity stunt where footage and images from the movie were projected onto the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
A “thank you” video was released with the cast expressing their gratitude to audiences in China, Egypt and elsewhere after it opened to an impressive $162 million in those markets. Unfortunately there was a bit of a kerfuffle when Cena, while being interviewed by a Taiwanese outlet, referred to Taiwan as a country, causing a backlash in China and resulting in him issuing an apology on the social media app Weibo. That backlash was at least in part to blame for the movie’s dramatic drop in its second week in China.
Rodriguez, Theron, Mirren and other women from the cast talk about how the story brings the female perspective to the action genre in a featurette released later that month that also teased the new song “Furiosa” by Anitta.
Diesel narrates a spot broadcast on ESPN that mixes movie footage with shots of NBA stars.
How the filmmakers pulled off a key sequence involving driving around and with the aid of massive magnets was the subject of a feature story.
Dom and Letty swing across a valley in their car in a clip released at the end of May.
To the surprise of many, news came in early June that the movie’s world premiere would happen at the Cannes Film Festival, albeit out of competition as a way to bring some serious star power and brand juice to the event.
Diesel also appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie while costar Jordana Brewster was interviewed about some of her favorite memories and moments from the franchise so far.
One final promotional reel looked at the 20 years of cast interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and more from all the previous movies, cementing how this is a long-lived franchise.
What else is there to say other than
It’s about family.
It’s about justice for Han.
It’s about magnets.
But, as I alluded to earlier, there’s little in the campaign for someone unfamiliar with the previous movies to latch on to or be interested in. I get that by branding this “The Fast Saga” that unconverted audience is being encouraged to check out the earlier movies, but if they’re not willing to do so they will likely remain unconvinced this is the movie to see.
How Netflix is selling its latest sci-fi action film.
The Old Guard, based on the graphic novel of the same name, star Charlize Theron as Andy, the leader of a group of mercenaries who have a particular advantage: They’re immortal. She and her team have been fighting on one side or another for centuries to protect humanity from massive threats it is largely unaware of.
At the same time new recruit Nile (Kiki Layne) joins the team they take on a job that winds up potentially exposing their existence to the world as a whole. That leads mysterious forces to seek them out in the hopes of harnessing their immortal abilities for profit, something Andy and the others are keen to avoid.
Netflix has been selling the film, written by Greg Rucka (who also wrote the original graphic novel) and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, as a less violent and more interesting option than its recent uber-graphic Extraction. Reviews so far have been largely positive but it sports only a 67 percent “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes.
Andy, her team and other supporting characters are arranged on the poster, released in mid-May (by marketing agency BOND), around a symbol or insignia that likely has significant meaning within the context of the story. The tagline “Forever is harder than it looks” hints nicely at the fact that the main characters are immortal while the guns and swords most are brandishing makes it clear they’re involved in some violent business.
A series of character images came out that use the same grey background and offer closeups of Andy, Nile and the others along with their birthdays, some of which go all the way back to BCE. That’s kind of a cool way to show off how old the characters are, adding another bit of information for the audience to latch onto.
The first trailer (3.3 million views on YouTube) came out in mid-May, introducing us to Andy and her team of seemingly immortal mercenaries. They’ve been in the shadows, fighting to protect the world for centuries and have a new recruit being trained. Someone has discovered their existence and is attempting to capture them in hopes of unlocking what makes them so special and profiting off it, something the team is keen to stop from happening. It’s a solid action flick being sold, with just enough of a mystery to keep things interesting.
Andy is in the midst of recruiting Nile in the second trailer (300,000 views on YouTube), released just last week. Nile meets the rest of the team and is welcomed into the world of immortals. Again we’re shown that they’re now on the radar of Copley, (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who wants to take them apart and see what makes them tick.
Online and Social
Nothing here, just a small amount of support on Netflix’s brand social channels.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The project was picked up by Netflix in late February, 2019.
One of the movie’s key action sequences was shared in a clip released in June.
Media and Publicity
Theron was interviewed about the movie in May, with her comments appearing along with a number of first-look stills to give audiences a sense of the movie’s style.
Both Layne and Theron were quoted about the movie and their characters in this interview that included another new look at the film.
Topics ranging from the movie to how she and her family were handling quarantine were covered when Theron appeared on “Today” and other shows. Another interview with her allowed her to talk even more about her character and how it fits into the actress’ other recent roles.
It might be hard to separate this from the dozens of other Netflix originals that have played in the science fiction or fantasy worlds, but this looks a cut above most of them. That’s not just due to the cast but also the production value, which appears to be a bit higher than what some others have sported.
The biggest draw here for many will be Theron’s once more stepping into an action role, something she’s been steadily doing and increasingly popular in. She’s turned, over the years, into a reliable action star capable of being both charming and deadly on-screen. With a concept that is pretty clearly explained in the campaign and lots of mysteries to be answered in the process, this looks like a fun and entertaining ride for people to check out.
Picking Up The Spare
Editor Terilyn Shropshire talks about collaborating with Prince-Bythewood and crafting the movie’s rhythm. Shropshire was also part of this joint interview with Prince-Bythewood.
Theron was featured on the cover of EW in a photo shoot she produced herself in quarantine. In another interview she commented on how she’s carved out her own path in Hollywood without worrying about franchises and other things.
How Layne trained for the action sequences in the film was covered in an interview with the actress. She also talked about how many black female heroes there are, even if there aren’t many in most media.
Ejiofor commented on how he prepped for the role and what he thought of the story.
A couple new featurettes have come out, one that focused on the translation fo the story from comics to film and one on the combat training the actors underwent. Another dove into the history of the characters while another talked about creating the immortals on screen.
Prince-Bythewood got a substantial profile on her status as the first black female director to helm a major comic book adaptation. Further interviews with Layne on her own and Layne with Theron together talked more about various topics.
Lots more interviews with Prince-Bythewood where she talked about casting Layne, what ideas there are for a sequel, how she avoided the over-played female catfight, what circumstances led to her having conversations with Skydance and the similarities between shooting action and love scenes.
Theron appeared remotely on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie as well as the social issues she’s actively involved with. She later shared some funny stories on “Late Night” while Layne made an appearance on that show a bit later.
The topic of a sequel as well as the movie’s immediate popularity were covered by Theron in this interview. Priince-Bythewood got another profile where she talked about how she’s created her own career.
It later came out that the movie’s post-production team was made up of up to 85 percent women, an unusually high number for most films.
More from Prince-Blythewood here about the importance of a compelling story amidst all the action.
How Lionsgate is selling its take on one of the biggest sexual harassment scandals in the media world.
Whether or not Roger Ailes’ ouster from Fox News marks a key moment of accountability in the recent movement to remove serial perpetrators of sexual abuse from power remains to be seen in many ways. But it certainly was a big deal given the cable channel and the political party it’s an official outlet for don’t usually take the rights of women to be as, much less more, valuable than the men exercising their God-given privilege.
That’s part of why those events have been dramatized in the new movie Bombshell. Charlize Theron plays Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly while Nicole Kidman plays Gretchen Carlson, both of them women integral to the demise of Ailes amidst allegations he repeatedly assaulted and harassed them as well as other female staffers. Margot Robbie plays Kayla Pospisil, a fictional new member of the news staff who encounters those same behaviors and acts as the audience’s surrogate to the story.
Lionsgate’s campaign has relied heavily on the physical transformations of Theron and Kidman into the women they play as well as the schadenfreude not a few people felt at the removal of a man responsible for making many of society’s current ills worse. Unfortunately a solid campaign has run into lackluster early buzz as the movie entered limited release, with wider distribution coming soon.
All three women central to the story are shown on the first poster (by marketing agency BOND), released in October. The similarities in their looks is apparent as they’re side by side like this, while copy toward the bottom makes it clear the movie is “Based on a real scandal.”
There’s almost no dialogue in the teaser trailer (8.6 million views on YouTube), released in August. Instead the situation is conveyed to the audience in a number of Meaningful Glances as first Pospisil, then Kelly, then Carlson get on an elevator heading down. When it stops, Carlson and then Pospisil get off and both head into the Fox News offices for unstated reasons.
The first official trailer (13.7 million views on YouTube) was released in early October as part of an event hosted by Lionsgate in Los Angeles and starts with Kayla being given an introduction to how she needs to approach news gathering at Fox News, basically by finding any story that “would scare your grandmother.” That cuts to Gretchen explaining to a room full of attorneys how bad the sexism and harassment at the company was, both on-screen and off, and Megyn’s high-profile run-in with a certain presidential contender. When Kayla wants a promotion, Ailes makes her an unseemly offer to prove her loyalty. Gretchen’s accusations against Ailes make the environment even more hostile and lead to a boiling point for everyone involved.
Online and Social
Nothing of real note on the movie’s official website, which just as the basic information. Social profiles have offered more frequent updates, but that’s about it.
Advertising and Promotions
Roach and the cast attended a press screening of the movie in early October where they all talked about how they approached telling the story, their own experiences with the kind of behavior shown in the story and more. That screening kicked off substantial awards season speculation for the cast in particular. Another screening event was held in New York a couple weeks later.
The organizers of the Hollywood Film Awards announced in October they would be giving Theron a career achievement award. Similarly, she was slated for International Star Award at the Palm Springs Film Festival.
Lionsgate announced in late October it was moving the limited release of the film up one week in an attempt to gain word of mouth before the wide release the week of 12/20, when it competes against Star Wars.
That same month it took the stars and filmmakers on a brief “Conversation Tour” to discuss the film and the topics it touches on.
Theron was honored by American Cinematheque in November.
Roach was joined by writer Charles Randolph at an Arclight Hollywood Q&A where they screened and then discussed the movie.
Two clips came out in the last few weeks, one focusing on Kayla worrying she’s about to be fired, apparently after being ranted at by Ailes and another with Carlson making it clear the official channels for reporting sexual harassment within Fox are utterly meaningless.
Commercials like this cut down the story to manageable chunks, positioning the events depicted in it as the starting point for a national conversation, though on what is left unsaid.
The cast and crew all came out to the movie’s Los Angeles premiere last week and the New York premiere earlier this week.
While it may not make a huge difference in box office results, the cast has been nominated for multiple Golden Globes, SAG and other awards recently.
Media and Press
Initial press about the movie – from before it even went into production – included that it was among the films being dropped by Annapurna Pictures, reportedly due to budget issues that couldn’t be handled by the studio as it struggled to get its financial house in order.
Following the press screening, interviews popped up regularly, including one with Roach where he explained the decision to create the character of Kayla and how he got people to violate NDAs to share details of life inside Fox with him. One person who didn’t participate in that research was Carlson, who was frustrated by the constraints on her voice. The subject of how within and without Fox was or wasn’t willing to break their NDAs to talk with the filmmakers was also covered here.
Additional interviews focused on the challenges of playing real people, including Theron discussing her physical transformation into Kelly and Lithgow’s look for playing Ailes. Theron also admitted to the nervousness she felt taking on the role.
Lithgow talked about the movie when he appeared on “The Late Show” in October. He was also the subject of another profile focusing on his transformation into Ailes and spoke about it more on “The Daily Show” recently.
How the production team recreated the Fox News offices and sets were covered in an interview with Roach. The costume design team talked themselves about getting the look of the Fox News staff right. Roach later shared how he felt the movie followed in the tradition of cinematic social commentary while the whole cast was included in a feature on how they went about making a movie about such a recent and still delicate topic.
There were later profiles of Theron allowing her to talk about her own transformation into Kelly and more, something she continued talking about when she appeared on “Good Morning, America.”
Additional interviews with Roach on why he watches Fox News for research and insights, costar Richard Kind on playing Rudy Gulliani, Robbie on the social media research she conducted, Theron on why she didn’t want to meet Kelly in advance, costar Alanna Ubach on playing Fox personality Jeanine Pirro and more have all popped recently. There were also a few profiles like this on the movie’s wardrobe design.
There’s nothing wrong with the marketing as it stands. The campaign sells a dramatic retelling of recent history in a much more compelling way than some other movies (cough, Richard Jewell, cough) and seems much more vital and important. How powerful men create cultures friendly to the abuse they visit on those around them is a topic we need to see more of in order to break those systems down.
What’s surprising – and a little disappointing – is that the social justice message seems secondary here to how the performances, especially by Theron, have been put in the spotlight. Her transformation into Kelly is absolutely notable and worth discussing, but what would have been more heartening is to see how that work went to furthering a crucial societal story. Instead of just focusing on what happened at Fox News, the reality that what happened there is happening all over corporate America could have been underlined a bit more strongly.
Other than that, selling movie with incredibly performances by some of the best actors working today isn’t a hard message to put forward.
Picking Up the Spare
Lithgow continued appearing on late night to talk about how he was transformed through makeup and costumes into Ailes. Theron made another stop on “The Late Show.”
Roach spoke about why he cast McKinnon as a new, fictional character here. He also admitted that sensitive men who get defensive easily are not likely to be the target audience for the film.
A clip of a scene glimpsed in the trailers, an explanation of what makes a story perfect for Fox audiences, was released after the movie was in theaters.
What started in the 1930s as a simple comic strip about an unusual and slightly ghoulish family gets an animated update from MGM.
The Addams Family, this week’s major animated release, is just the latest in a long string of adaptations of Charles Addams’ single-panel comics that originally ran in The New Yorker. This version features the voice talents of Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Charlize Theron as Morticia, Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday and Finn Wolfhard as Pugsley, among many other notable names.
In the movie, the Addams clan picks up and moves to New Jersey. Once there, the family finds they have trouble fitting in, largely because of the intrusion of smarmy TV host Margaux Needler (Allison Janney). She whips up neighborhood sentiment against the Addamses, something they react to in their usual twisted – but never actually evil – way. The story, then, is about accepting people for who they are and not being afraid of differences.
MGM’s campaign has presented a movie offering something new for a new generation while also paying homage to the 80 years of history the property has. Tracking estimates predict an opening weekend of around $25 million, which could be enough to beat out Gemini Man if that movie underperforms.
The first teaser poster (by marketing agency Proof), released in late March, offers a good look at the Addams household and family members, asking the audience to reconsider whether they really think their own family is weird.
A series of posters came out in late July that featured each character along with a short little modern catchphrase that’s appropriate to them. So Uncle Fester, for instance, is shown with a light bulb in his mouth and the phrase “It’s gonna be lit” next to him.
All families are average and unique, the first trailer (9.5 million views on YouTube) starts out by explaining, but some – like the Addams – are more unique than others. There’s no story to speak of that’s offered by the footage on display, just a series of violent and mysterious events that are both creepy and funny in their own way to show how deranged – and dangerous – every member family truly is.
There’s more story offered in the official trailer (11.7 million views on YouTube), released in early August. It starts with Morticia using her unconventional methods to wake Wednesday and Pugsley along with other displays of how odd the family is, including a joke about Wednesday finding the red balloon usually held by IT’s murderous clown Pennywise. The Addams are moving to the New Jersey suburbs, where their unusual tendencies and behavior soon becomes cause for concern among the “normal” families already living there.
A third trailer came out in early September that’s short, basically a cut down version of the earlier spot. It focuses on the reaction of the Addams’ new neighbors to the family’s unusual behavior and habits but doesn’t get into much of the rest of the story.
Online and Social
The official website for the movie is rather well-stocked and engaging. There’s the usual array of marketing materials, and the “About” synopsis is underwritten and vague, but there’s plenty to capture visitor’s attention in the “Activities” section, which includes additional How To videos to watch (more on this below) and printouts to help reinforce the connection with the brand.
There’s also a Giphy channel where the studio has shared GIFs from the trailers and other videos.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The first trailer was used in a Promoted Tweet shortly after it came out.
A short lyric video for “My Family,” a collaboration between Migos, Karol G, Snoop Dogg and Rock Mafia was released that contained footage from the film, with a Spanish language version coming out later. At the beginning of October a video for Christina Aguilera’s “Haunted Heart” was released.
Fandango MovieClips was given an exclusive featurette that had the cast and crew talking about how this movie pays homage to the original comic strips.
The first clip, released at the beginning of October, featured an extended look at the dinner scene glimpsed in the trailers. A bit later EW debuted an exclusive clip that has Lurch and It playing the organ, eventually dabbling with the classic theme song from the show.
A whole series of videos was released beginning about a week prior to the movie hitting theaters offering spooky Halloween recipes and decorating tips. That included:
It wasn’t part of the series, but Wednesday tried to become a beauty influencer by offering makeup tips that guaranteed to “make it look like you haven’t slept in years.” The video completely seems like a legit influencer post, including a reminder to subscribe and follow her on Instagram.
MGM lined up a number of brand promotional partners ranging from Hershey’s to IHOP to Cost Plus World Market and more, most all of which are included in my latest article for Adweek. Additionally, Ring allowed customers to add the Addams’ theme to their doorbell and T-Mobile ran a scavenger hunt where people could win $1,000 in movie tickets from Atom Tickets for finding clues scattered throughout the trailers.
Online ads used the key art and other visual/video elements to drive traffic to the website where people could buy tickets.
A first look at the visual style of the movie accompanied the announcement of the talented voice cast.
Universal included unfinished footage from the film in its CineEurope presentation to exhibitors in mid-June.
As release approached, Theron made an appearance on “Kimmel,” Moretz showed up on “Ellen” and more, including the leads talking about the movie on “Good Morning America.”
At the movie’s premiere, the cast talked about updating the Addams Family for modern times, and that’s the central focus of the movie’s campaign. The characters have always in some way reflected the era, from the eccentricity of the wealthy in the 1930s to the kinds of neighbors you might find in the expanding suburbs of the 60s to the goth culture of the 90s. So it’s only natural that now, in an age where we are debating immigration, cultural assimilation and similar topics, they’ve become a metaphor for the theoretical “other” that intrudes upon “normal” society.
That aside, the campaign as a whole is just a lot of fun. It plays with the characters in new and interesting ways while also making it clear it’s just the latest in a string of interpretations. Everything, even down to the brand partnerships, is on-brand, presenting a coherent and consistent message to the audience no matter where it might be encountered.
Often, campaigns for reboots or new versions of long-running properties only pay lip service to what’s come before. MGM’s campaign here, though, makes it clear it’s enthusiastically embracing all previous incarnations, especially the 60s TV show. Products at Cost Plus featured photos of John Astin, Carolyn Jones and the other actors and the studio also put a handful of full episodes from the show up on YouTube for free streaming.
While it may not reach the dark, twisted heights of the 1991 live-action film, comparing anything to Raul Julia and Angelica Huston being directed by Barry Sonnenfeld is unfair on its face. Still, it’s a great way to keep the characters fresh and introduce them to a whole new audience in a way that feels organic for 2019.
Picking Up the Spare
Theron spoke about the themes the story touches on and how important they are to the current time at the film’s premiere.
The extent to which Long Shot underperformed at the box office when it was released earlier this year has become one of the central narratives of entertainment reporting in 2019. A romantic comedy starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen should have connected with audiences, especially given the sheer volume of “the romcom is back!” think pieces that have been published in the wake of hits like The Big Sick, Set It Up and a handful of other films. There were even reports that studio buyers were snapping up romcoms left and right at Cannes in May, energized by Netflix’s “Summer of Love” in 2018 and other success stories.
So when Long Shot brought in only $30 million domestically, it was massively disappointing. Two massive, enormously likable stars in a breezy popcorn flick like this should have been gold, Jerry, gold! Indeed, the campaign mounted by Lionsgate utilized the chemistry between those stars as the main selling point for audiences.
Missing from the campaign was any mention or reference to the most interesting part of the story: The pointed, spot-on message about the current unstable state of the media industry.
The romantic comedy element of the story begins when Fred Flarsky (Rogen) takes a job as the new speech writer for Secretary of State and aspiring presidential candidate Charlotte Field (Theron), who’s also his childhood crush. But their reunion is precipitated by Flarsky quitting his job as a writer reporter for Vice-like publiciation where he has a reputation for gonzo investigative pieces. For example, the movie opens with him undercover in a neo-Nazi organization in order to expose their members and actions.
Following that incident he’s informed by the publisher that the site has been sold to a Rupert Murdoch-like media mogul named Parker Wembley (played with gusto by Andy Serkis). Flarsky is taken aback by this, not least because he himself has written several stories about Wembley. The purchase does not bode well for the future of such hard-hitting pieces and Flarsky quits in protest, afraid he won’t be able to continue doing what he’s been doing.
If you’ve been watching the media landscape for the last several years, you may recognize the events above as being remarkably similar to what has happened time and again to websites that have taken on powerful figures. Peter Thiel was so offended by the things written about him by the journalists at Gawker he sued the publication into bankruptcy and oblivion. In 2017 Todd Ricketts purchased the Gothamist network, which promptly deleted negative coverage of Ricketts from its sites but was still shut down by him just months later.
Cinematic stories about journalists are relatively common, but few get it so right or offer such relevant commentary on the state of the media industry. Most just show a reporter who in appropriately involved with the subjects they’re reporting on, or present them as either naive do-gooders or hardened cynics.
Here, the realities facing freelancers and reporters is offered starkly, albeit to comedic effect. Flarsky has to choose between A) compromising his ethics and principles in the service of maintaining (for the time being) steady work, or B) drawing a moral line in the sand and saying he refuses to see his work compromised by someone who may feel threatened by that work.
Taking that kind of stand can not only impact current income but future opportunities as well. Freelancers are subject to vague “morals” clauses that may cause them to lose work simply because someone complained about something they wrote on social media. They censor themselves lest any criticism of a publication, company or individual be held against them when pitching or bidding for work.
Flarsky’s journey following his dramatic exit doesn’t follow the same path it would for most writers, editors or freelancers. Not only do most people not have the luxury of letting their ethics act as the primary motivator when making life-altering decisions (see season three of “The Good Place”) but aren’t then rewarded by scoring a sweet gig writing jokes for the girl they’ve been in love with for 20 years. Most then spend much of their time figuring out what the hell they’re going to do now and living with the regret of not swallowing their damn pride because how they going to pay the mortgage now, huh?
Still, that the screenwriters would even approach the idea that media ownership by the rich and powerful types who are often the subject of investigative takedowns is a step in the right direction. It’s an acknowledgement that the world is run by those who feel that power should, by all rights, make them immune from criticism and repercussions, no matter what their wrongdoing may be. They’re using that power to buy up the kinds of outlets that have traditionally held them in check and made them accountable for their actions.
It’s an angle I would have liked to have seen explored more deeply. Flarsky has a chance later on to tell Wembley what he thinks of him, but it comes out as a temper tantrum more than a biting critique of his maniacal need to avoid responsibility.
The media industry commentary is not the point of the movie, but it is an important subplot the likes of which are uncommon on the screen. Making a more concerted effort to bring it to the forefront, even just for a targeted media-centric audience may not have made much of a difference at the box office, but it would have presented something truly original about the movie that might have acted as a wedge for some people to take a chance on it, potentially generating positive word of mouth that could cascade outward.
Not much at all on the movie’s official website, just a synopsis and collections of trailers and posters along with links to the film’s official social network profiles.
Media and Publicity
A first still was released in conjunction with the announcement of the title change earlier this year. Theron answered questions while in Austin while Paul Scheer commented on prepping to play the role of an obnoxious and clueless conservative TV talking head. The whole cast participated in a Q&A around that screening as well.
Rogen appeared on “Kimmel” a couple months ago to talk about the movie and more, including filming the sex scenes with Theron. Closer to release he showed up on “The Late Show” to hype the movie, talk about drugs and all that. Theron also made a few stops on the talk show and media circuit.
Theron and Rogen were both interviewed about how the movie is about politics but it’s not political in that they’re not trying to comment on modern day happenings, just trying to find the humor in the system. There were also interviews with director Jonathan Levine and costar O’Shea Jackson as well as June Diane Raphael, who talked about the rom-com genre as a whole and how this movie fits into it.
One point I want to be sure and emphasize here is that this is exactly the kind of movie that, 20 years ago, would have opened to a respectable $45 million and been considered a success.
While Lionsgate avoided opening the movie directly against Avengers: Endgame, coming out the week after isn’t much better as event movies like that benefit greatly from repeat viewings, eating up all the oxygen in the room for a number of weeks.
Picking Up the Spare
Co-writer Liz Hannah and director Jonathan Levine were interviewed about how they managed to create a rom-com that wasn’t quite as regressive socially as many tend to be.
How well Theron and Rogen gelled and how the whole team collaborated to create a singular vision for the story was detailed here. Levine and Rogen also spoke about how Theron joining the film encouraged them to take it even more seriously than they had been. They all spoke about how the movie was not only funny but important at the premiere.
Theron finally hit the talk shows in earnest, with a stop on “Late Night.” She was also interviewed about her political thoughts as they relate to the movie and the industry and appeared on “The Daily Show” as well.
GQ featured Rogen on its June cover in a story that talked about this movie as well as his career to date.
Movies haven’t always been super-kind to the child support profession. If nannies, au pairs and babysitters aren’t murderous, husband-stealing sociopaths they’re comedically reluctant, only in that position because of some other circumstance. The message to women almost seems to be that needing a bit of help not only is a character flaw in and of itself but one that could put your children, marriage and home in danger.
The new movie Tully seems to take a slightly different tack, presenting a more realistic portrait of motherhood. The movie reunites director Jason Reitman, writer Diablo Cody and star Charlize Theron, who plays Marlo, a mother of three whose brother hires her some help to deal with the overwhelming reality of life. That help comes in the form of Tully (Mackenzie Davis), who offers more than just relief from constantly being the only one on call with the kids. The two women bond and have lessons and insights to share with each other about life.
David Oyelowo, who to date has primarily in dramas, gets to flex his comedic muscles in this week’s Gringo. He plays Harold, a mid-level executive at a pharmaceutical company that’s looking to corner the market with an innovation around medical marijuana. To help bring that plan to fruition he’s dispatched by Richard and Elaine (Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron, respectively), the company’s high-powered heads, to deliver a new formula to a plant in Mexico so production can begin.
Things go badly for Harold pretty quickly. What he thought was going to be a simple business trip turns into a life-or-death situation as he finds himself playing the pawn in the games being played on one hand by Richard and Elaine and on the other by the drug cartel they’ve honked off. It takes all his luck and wit just to stay alive as everyone, it seems, is gunning for him for various reasons. The only help he finds comes from the mercenary dispatched to find him (Sharlto Copley) and Sunny (Amanda Seyfried), a young woman who he meets in the course of his adventures.
It’s not always fair when we compare new movies to James Bond. Nothing can truly measure up the legacy of 50+ years that the British spy has established. Nevertheless “It’s like Bond, but…” is a convenient narrative shorthand and has been used plentifully in the lead up to the release of Atomic Blonde. In the new movie, based on a series of graphic novels, Charlize Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a long-standing MI6 agent with a history of getting results, no matter what it takes.
Things turn personal (as they are apt to in spy stories) when a former partner/lover turns up dead. Not only that but she’s sent on a dangerous mission into Cold War Berlin to retrieve and extract a dossier containing highly-sensitive information. To that end she teams with local station chief David Percival (James McAvoy), albeit reluctantly. The deeper she gets, though, the more she finds enemies lurking behind every corner, including those she once considered allies.
The first poster made quite the impression, showing Theron standing and facing the camera, a blonde wig showing up white in the monochromatic image, sunglasses obscuring her eyes and a gun at her side. it’s stylish and mysterious and pretty amazing.
The second poster uses an image from a key scene in the trailer of Theron kicking butt in a hallway full of goons as its centerpiece. The title is below that and at the top are a bunch of positive quotes from early reviews. This one is very much about selling this as an action movie, not just a sexy action movie, which is clear since Theron is fully dressed in this image.
Another poster featured a close-up (though from the side) of Theron, her bright hair standing out in the black and white photo and a gun shown against her shoulder.
One final poster was released at Comic-Con, where the movie had various other promotional efforts going on. This one features original artwork and not just a photo, as it basically mashes up Theron’s poses from the previous one-sheets, the one with her sporting shades and the one with a gun draped across her arm. In the background you can see a sea of umbrellas opened just as in the trailers. There are a few other smaller images thrown in there to add some texture and details. There’s an appeal at the bottom to see it in Dolby Cinema at AMC, promising “Atomic sounds. Brighter blondes.”
The first trailer starts out with Broughton suiting up for action before cutting to her taking on a group of bad guys single handedly in what may already be one of the best action sequences of 2017. We then get a bit more of her backstory finding out she’s an MI6 operative with a strong and violent skill set. She’s tasked with retrieving a document from Berlin and finding out who’s killing intelligence operatives, which involves seducing a female source and causing all kinds of damage in the process.
It’s a really good trailer and I’m absolutely here for Theron and other female stars in more action roles like this, even if I do have some issues with both how it’s being sold and how the press framed the debut of the trailer.
The second trailer starts off with Broughton narrating how how she chose this dangerous life before taking out a room full of bad guys single handedly. We get her background and find out with her what her mission is. Her trip to Berlin doesn’t start off as expected, though, until she meets her contact in the city. From there it’s’ more sexy outfits and her doing some sexy meeting of a French intelligence agent. She talks about how someone on the inside has set her up and she’s going to take it very personally. All that happens along with footage of her beating up even more various henchmen and other baddies.
The part that works best here is that it presents a more linear, cohesive story for the movie. We get a better sense of the stakes and the relationships and that all works to sell even more effectively what already looks like a fun, if violent, movie.
Online and Social
The official website opens by playing the second trailer. After that you see the key art of a cold, seductive, deadly assassin wearing shades, a bleach blond wig and ready for action. There’s a button on the bottom of the page encouraging you to Get Tickets. Also down there, just before the links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles, is a link to the “It Gets Better Project” that helps support LGBTQ kids. There’s also a link to “Make Your Own I Am Atomic” image, which lets you upload a picture and choose your own word, then download the result as a GIF to share on the social network of your choice.
Back to the main site, in the drop-down menu on the left the first choice is another chance to buy tickets. That’s followed by “Videos,” which is where you can watch both the trailers as well as the short teasers for them.
Next up are the “Chapters” the studio released over time. These amounted to extended clips from the movie that served the purpose of introducing us to the characters and the world they operate in, as well as continuing to give fans something to talk about.
This is the first time I’ve seen a “Gallery” that is just GIFs. There don’t appear to be any stills here, just three GIFs of footage pulled from the trailers. Finally the “About” section has a story synopsis and the cast and crew list.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A bit of TV advertising was done. This commercial, in particular, pulled directly from the scene used in the trailers of Broughton beating up the police in the apartment but added video game-like hit counters to the action. More readily seen was the plentiful online advertising that’s been done using the key art and the social advertising that used the trailers on Twitter and Facebook.
Media and Publicity
Before the trailer was released we got a glimpse at Theron and the movie as a whole with some first look photos that included comments from the actress about her training program for the role. More new photos and comments from the director appeared in EW’s summer movie preview. Theron also talked about the same-sex love scene that’s featured heavily in the trailers and how the decision to go down that road came about.
The movie was announced as having a substantial presence at San Diego Comic-Con, signaling it’s going hard after the geek audience. Not only was Theron scheduled to appear on an unrelated “Women Who Kick Ass” panel but she graced the special issue of EW that was distributed throughout San Diego. Oh, and the movie was screened for select attendees, given them an advance look so they can go home and online to talk about it to their friends and hopefully drive more ticket sales. At one of the panels Theron talked about how the story was designed to upend expectations and would be more than a little surprising to the audience.
New stills appeared in EW’s Comic-Con preview issue showing off more of Theron’s international woman of mystery along with an interview with the actress.
Both McAvoy and Theron did the press rounds to talk about the movie, with him recounting doing some “sexy fighting” and her engaging in crazy dance competitions and lots more.
It’s hard not to get on board with Theron as a hard-fighting spy in Cold War Berlin. She certainly has more action film credibility in the wake of Mad Max: Fury Road but was always a capable physical actress, even before that. It’s no more a stretch to see her in a role like this than it was in 2002 as Matt Damon, primarily a dramatic and comedic actor, prepared to storm the box office in The Bourne Identity. To hammer home the point that she can absolutely play a tough woman of mystery a good chunk of the campaign was devoted to showing Theron shoulder-deep in stunt training, working out fight choreography and talking about the physical demands of the role. That emphasis may be an attempt to cut short some old-fashioned thinking involving the phrase “the weaker sex” and related topics.
With that aside, the marketing has a wonderfully visual style. It’s all glammed up in neon, dark blues and grays that evoke the bleak conditions that are synonymous with mid-80s Berlin, which was still divided and which has often been portrayed as the turf warring spies met each other on. That permeates the campaign, starting with the posters and going through the trailers and everything else. It’s sleek and stylized, just like the movie it’s supporting.